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Do Violent Video Games Cause Behavior Problems? Essay Example

Pages: 7

Words: 1794

Essay

Introduction

This paper examines the concept of whether violent video games are a major influence in the causation of criminal behaviour. The analysis looks at both sides of the argument and arrives at a deduction based upon the facts and evidence presented. The paper addresses the key question of what evidence supports the fact that video games are a major influence into criminal behaviour characteristics.

In 2005 the American Psychological Association called for a reduction in the amount of violence that is shown in Video Games.  From their perspective the evidence was clear “the evidence from 20 years of research on the subject was clear. They based their conclusion largely on the work of Kevin M. Kieffer, a psychologist at St. Leo University near Tampa, Fla., who prepared an analysis of dozens of relevant studies.” (O’CONNOR).  The research carried out indicated that those children who were exposed to graphic violence scenes had a short term increase in aggressive behaviour patterns. Another study conducted by a student from Illinois indicated that there was no long term damage. That conclusion might prove more socially acceptable but a recent case illustrated the potential problem “jury in Alabama reached a guilty verdict in the case of Devin Moore, who killed three people when he was 18 and as his defense blamed the video game “Grand Theft Auto.” (O’CONNOR)

Fact or fiction?

There has been a significant amount of research carried out in this area and essentially there are two opinions i.e. The Pro video games lobby and the anti-video games lobby. It is useful to examine each side of the argument.  Professor Henry Jenkins[1] of MIT puts forward the arguments in favour of the video games i.e. they are not a significant factor in the increase of criminal behaviour problems

Pro video games

Availability of violent games:  Federal crime statistics illustrate that Juvenile violent crime has significantly decreased in the USA. Some 90% of boys and 40% of girls are involved in playing video games. The majority of these are not involved in criminal behaviour. The Surgeon General stated that most anti-social and criminal tendencies were a result of mental instability, poor environments and lack of good parental upbringing. The moral panic that has exploded concerning the use of violent video games is more of a paranoia that detracts from the real social and psychological issues society faces.

Scientific evidence:  Initial scientific claims are based upon narrow research studies and are not representative of the wider holistic view. Many of the studies carried out are inconclusive and require further research before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. Much of this focuses upon causal behaviour patterns i.e.aggressive people like aggressive video games. At the moment no research pinpoints that an aggressive video game leads to violent crime or murder.  The verdict in the Devin Moore case being an isolated incident?

Children are the main market:  It has been estimated that 66% of the market is under the age of 18.  As such the focus should be on the link between that of aggressive video games and violent juvenile crime. Current statistics dispute this and indicate that juvenile crime is at a 30 year low. Market research has indicated that 83% of game purchases are influenced by the parents. As such exposure to this material is in the control of the parents. Parents need to restrict children to the degree of exposure to these sortsof games and balance this between that of exercise, school work and healthy living activities.

Almost no girls play computer games: The video game market is predominately in the male sector. The trend is however for more girls taking an interest in these games. Psychologists state that women associate with the more powerful independent “warrior like” figures as a means of developing confidence and building up their own self-esteem.

The military comparison:  As video games are used in simulation exercises to train the military in the art of killing it has been assumed they have the same impact on Children. This is the argument put forwards by the Military psychologist David Grossman and that children are gaining the same exposure that will condition them to behave in an anti-social and aggressive way in society.  The verdict is still out here but Grossmans model only works under certain predefined conditions.

Social Isolation theory:  The concept that video games contribute to the social isolation of children and make them more introvert. The argument against this is that most gamers play with friends and this statistically is high as 60%.  A lot of games are designed for multiple players promoting teamwork and social interaction. One social psychologist stated that two gamers may be fighting to the death on screen but off screen they grow closer as friends.

Desensitizing Theory:  The concept of exposure to graphic violence on screen forms the basis of desensitizing the true meaning and concept of this.  In other words the divorce from reality; in the virtual world you do not experience pain or suffering or severe wounds or the possibility of real death.  Media researchers state that the violence in games also reduces the amount of empathy for real world violence incidents. Equally those with prolonged exposure to violent games are running the risk of becoming mentally disturbed.

Anti video games

The Literacy Argument: Exposure to prolonged graphic violence detracts from a health life balance i.e.the concept of a healthy mind in a healthy body. Children are in the formative years for adulthood and should be devoting more time to learning (school) activities, reading / writing, exercise and more positive confidence building activities in the real world. The danger is not achieving educational goals and as such leaning towards ignorance or in more acute cases retardation or mental illness.

Obsession: The games can become addictive and lead towards unhealthy obsessions. Acts of violence carried out in the virtual world may lead to child experiments in the real world and expose the child to untold horrors.  This becomes more complex when this is linked to juvenile gangs in the larger urban city environment.

Evidence exists – There have been numerous cases or bodies of evidence supporting the linkages between violent games and crime.  The two students who committed the Columbine High School massacre were said to be avid players of the violent game “Doom”.  In addition the games have become much more violent and realistic “games such as Unreal Tournament and Half-Life are gorier. In these games when characters get shot a large spray of blood covers the walls and floor near the character, and on the occasions when explosives are used, the characters burst into small but recognizable body parts” (Shin).  The research and evidence may not be conclusive but there are sufficient cases and linkages to cause real alarm and concern for the future well-being of children.

In addition, research has indicated that exposure to graphic violence is more harmful in the virtual reality world of video games than exposure to other media like TV and DVD’s. “In another study by Karen E. Dill, Ph.D. & Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D., violent video games were considered to be more harmful in increasing aggression than violent movies or television shows due to their interactive and engrossing nature”

New Dimensions – Another dangerous trend is that of games that expose children to subjects like torture.   This is the type of game that can cause psychological damage in young people and equally introduce them to graphic concepts that are not really fit for young minds.  There should become an ethical dimension in terms of the games manufacturers but there seems to be no control in terms of the content that they push out into the market place.

The Legal issues:  The controversy of violent graphic games has now reached the Supreme Court in America. “The highest court in the US has heard arguments over whether children can be stopped from buying violent video games involving murder and sexual assault.” (BBC News).  Paul Smith the defence lawyer was quoted as saying: We have a history in this country of new mediums coming along and people vastly overreacting to them, thinking the sky is falling, our children are all going to be turned into criminals. The Supreme Court justice was split as to whether such restrictions would be deemed constitutional. One of the main issues seems to be the lack of legal precedence here. The issue in question being whether there should be an outright ban in California, as applicable to manufacturers of the games that depict graphic violence. The 2005 California law already prohibits the sale of certain games where “ a reasonable person would find that the violent content appeals to deviant or morbid interests of minors and as such causes the game as a whole to lack serious artistry, literary, political or scientific values for minors” (BBC News). The penalty for breach of this law being $1000 fine to the retailer concerned. “The Supreme Court, which will make a decision next year on the case, may have to decide if California is required to demonstrate “a direct causal link between violent video games and physical and psychological harm to minors” before stopping games being sold to them.” (BBC News)

Conclusions

It appears that there is an urgent need for more research in this subject area and this needs to be co-ordinated across a number of different scientific research areas i.e. Medicine, Sociology, Psychology and Criminology.  There seem to be sufficient linkages in order to generate a real cause of concern.  There are already significant social problems with drugs and juvenile crime without adding a future generation of ignorant or mentally challenged people into the equation.

Craig Anderson the Professor of Psychology at Iowa State University has carried out a major research study looking at 130 research reports from over 130,000 subjects on a world-wide basis. Resulting from this analysis he was able to make an early observation “Exposure to violent video games directly causes increased aggressive thoughts and behaviour, and decreased empathy and pro-social behaviour in the youths exposed to them. Anderson’s team says these study conclusions hold true across geographies, cultures, and study methods” (Moore). Evidence suggested that potential damage was more likely in children than that of exposure by adults. “

Violent video games affect children in both Eastern and Western cultures, in males and females, and in all age groups studied. Although there are good theoretical reasons to expect the long-term harmful effects to be higher in younger, preteen youths, there had been only weak evidence of such age effects” (Moore).

Works Cited

BBC News. Supreme Court considers violent games rules case. 2 11 2010. 11 11 2010 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11671196>.

JMoore, Elizabeth Armstrong. Metastudy: Violent video games raise aggression. 2 3 2010. 11 11 2010 <http://news.cnet.com/8301-27083_3-10462519-247.html>.

O’connor, anahad. The Claim: Violent Video Games Make Young People Aggressive. 30 8 2005. 11 11 2010 <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/30/health/psychology/30real.html>.

[1]Henry Jenkins is the director of comparative studies at MIT.

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